Chapter three: The Village of Norhhill, part two
“He helped bring in the greatest catch we have had in weeks!” a voice called from behind the women.
Shiir looked up from the grass he’d been staring at while trying to think of what to say and saw one of the archers stepping briskly towards them. “The elders are calling a blessed hunt, Shiir. You have really impressed them.”
Prodded by his brother’s elbow, Shiir’s expression brightened. “Re– really? What did you bring in?”
“Come and see.” was the archer’s reply, and he beckoned the brothers to come with him.
“Go ahead,” Shiir’s mother told him with a smile, “and know that I am proud of you.”
Wondering what he could have possibly helped in the catching of, Shiir hugged his mother, and he and Theron follow the archer to the cooking pit in front of the elders’ hut. The rick smoke reached his nose even before he could see the gathering, and it smelled like far more meat than there had been for ages. As they came around one of the house, into the view of the other elves, a busy hum started to fill the crowd. It only took a moment for someone to take Shiir’s hand pull him to the front, right in between the elder’s hut and the fire-pit. Words of praise sprang up randomly from the villagers, comments on the great game brought in that day, and it warmed his heart to know that he had done so well.
“This way, lad,” a withered voice called from beside one of the fires.
Shiir thanked his fellow villagers as he was taken to the old man, who was watching several of the men raking the coals of the last fire pit. He leaned on his cane of knotted oak, his back hunched over with age and covered by a cape of furs they many assumed were almost as old as he was. He also wore a shirt of woven wool, the worn fibers stained with dyes that came from various plants in the forest, and pants that were much the same. It was warm enough outside that the elder had forgone any shoes, preferring to feel the earth beneath his feet. The younger elf crouch down beside him and waited patiently for him to speak.
“Well, Shiir, what do you think of your first hunt?” The old man looked down at him, his white beard, which had grown down to his belly, swaying as he moved. The boy could hardly see the fading brown of his eyes, so think were his eyebrows.
“It was not mine alone,” Shiir admitted, knowing that modesty came first. “I did not even land any of the blows that brought down these animals.
The elder laughed softly, and then said, “The other hunters certainly feel that you did something, and they are still telling the story of how great you were in that forest today. Look here. We have four rabbits, a young deer, half a dozen quail, and look–”
The elder pointed his staff to the creature that was being brought over on a lattice of wood that had been sliced from a felled fruit tree. Some of the villagers had begun building it that morning as the hunters left to find meat, and had let it soak in water to keep it from burning up right away. The cerasun was a popular fruit among the elves, with its thick pulp that dripped with a dark red juice, which happened to be perfect for staining fabrics a rich shade of red. The pits in the middle were good for nothing more then filling the middens, but the blossoms of the tree were far more popular. They bloomed a wispy shade of pink in the springtime, the edges of the petal a brighter and more bold shade, and the young girls would wear them in their hair to show off their beauty. The wood was Shiir’s favorite part; he enjoyed the sweet aroma that it gave off as it started to smoke over the coals, and it enhanced the flavor of the meat better than anything else.
The animal on that lattice had already been butchered, but Shiir still recognized it as a lav’he. It was shorter and much fatter than a deer, and walked in large hards with dozens of its kind. It has short curls of ivory hair and a short tail that seemed to serve no purpose. They were easy enough to catch, for they were slow and clumsy, but the hard part was finding them. It was not that they were rare, but that they were so far from any of the villages. They tended to stay up in the higher hills, and when one was frightened, they would all shuffle away to a safer place. They seemed to be able to hear the elves from a great distance, and knew what would happen if they were caught. Shiir stared wide-eyed at the dark meat being set over the coals. It would be juicy and tender, and was the most favored meet among the villagers.
“They found a lav’he?” Shiir asked in surprise. He began to wonder which animal Jenh said would be theirs, and which had been lucky finds.
“Aye, lad, aye,” the elder replied, laughing again. “And they want to give you the greatest portion of it. The hunters consider you very lucky. Next time there is a hunt, you will have to go with them.”
“If you ask it, then I shall go, of course.”
In the back of his mind, Shiir wondered whether he really deserved so much of the credit that was being given to him. It seemed as though nobody had mentioned the goddess whom they had met, and he was relieved for that much. How will the elders react when they meet the goddess? he asked himself as he watched the fire-pits burn. The other two already had the rest of the kill cooking on them, and it would only be an hour or so for the lav’he to be ready to eat. That would be plenty of time for him to sit and reflect on the day he’d had.